Record of the Day: Stevie Wonder, "Songs in the Key of Life"

Record of the Day: Stevie Wonder, “Songs in the Key of Life”

Stevie Wonder
Songs in the Key of Life (Cd Motown Z072131)

Released in 1976 after a very long gestation, at the height of a creative period that had already given the musical world
gems like “Innervisions” and “Talking Book”, this double album represents its author's magnum opus, a gigantic river into which all the experiences accumulated in an amazing career that began at just twelve years old were poured.
The voice of this master of modern music resonates with conviction from the first notes of the initial “Love's in Need of Love Today”, which kicks off a treasure chest of songs coming from a seemingly inexhaustible imagination that does not seem to know any qualitative failures.

Lyrics that speak of poverty, war, ghettos, social marginalization (just think of the words of “Village Ghetto Land”) alternate with joyful moments (the famous “Isn't She Lovely”, composed to celebrate the birth of his daughter Aisha) and instrumental songs like “Contusion” and “Easy Goin' Evening”, plus some of the most expressive ballads in the entire American songbook like “Joy Inside My Tears” and “If It's Magic”; if in “Black Man” Wonder uses History to forcefully convey a message that goes beyond racial barriers, in “I Wish” he retraces his childhood pranks with smiling nostalgia over a funky rhythmic carpet of explosive power that seems to be charged with even greater energy his splendid voice.

The abundance of music in this set is such, and its qualitative compactness is such, that indicating other individual pieces is difficult and probably useless. A masterpiece (and for once the word is not excessive) of this caliber must be appreciated in its entirety numerous times; with every listen the wonder is renewed in the face of a talent with few comparisons in the world musical panorama.

Versatile multi-instrumentalist (almost the entire album is played entirely by him, with a few luxury guests including George Benson and Herbie Hancock), composer, unsurpassed singer, musician who summarizes and brings within himself decades of African-American musical history, Stevie Wonder has summarized in this album all the creative energy of which he is capable, giving us a work that does not age a minute despite the passing of the years and is recommended to everyone, even to those who do not normally listen to this type of music (and do not know what gets lost).

Carlo Boccadoro, composer and conductor, was born in Macerata in 1963. He lives and works in Milan. He collaborates with soloists and orchestras in different parts of the world. He is the author of numerous books on musical topics.

This text is taken from “Lunario della musica: A record for every day of the year” published by Einaudi, courtesy of the author and the publisher.